Definition of captain in English:



  • 1The person in command of a ship.

    ‘he found a vessel whose captain was prepared to sign him on’
    • ‘Historic whale population estimates have always been based on whaling log books compiled by ship captains since the mid 1800s.’
    • ‘You can build farms and plantations, hire sailors and ship captains to build your fleet, and establish trade routes to line your pockets.’
    • ‘Included are ship names, ship captains, merchants, tonnage, disembarkation port, and dates of departure and arrival.’
    • ‘Eng follows the future Captain Buffet to Mississippi where he is a sailing ship captain and raises a family.’
    • ‘Also, captains and ship owners might be reluctant to regularly exchange ballast in order to extend the life of ballast pumps.’
    • ‘There is enough recorded evidence to the contrary even in the writings of some captains of slave ships.’
    • ‘If so, she was even closer to the making of history than the five Scottish captains who commanded ships at Trafalgar on that fateful day.’
    • ‘How was it different, playing another man's songs, and being a deckhand instead of the captain of the ship?’
    • ‘The captain of one ship sends a message to a sailor on deck.’
    • ‘With a squall bearing down, the captain and crew abandon ship, leaving 800 religious pilgrims to their deaths.’
    • ‘When Darwin sailed around the world on his great quest, the captain of the good ship Beagle was Robert FitzRoy.’
    • ‘Odysseus explains that the Greek soldiers will not hold their positions if they see their captains preparing the ships for flight.’
    • ‘During the trip, Jones unexpectedly became the ship's master when its captain and first mate died suddenly.’
    • ‘How many times as children did we pretend we were the captain of a pirate ship sailing the Spanish Main?’
    • ‘At that time he brought together 12 experts consisting of trawler captains, ship owners and engineers.’
    • ‘From that program I learned that the composer was the captain of a slave ship that made the triangular voyage from England to Africa to the Caribbean.’
    • ‘This became a meeting place for merchants, ship owners, ship captains, insurance brokers and others involved in overseas trade.’
    • ‘What struck me particularly in the movie was the extreme commitment the sailors have to each other, their captain, and their ship.’
    • ‘A ship captain traversing the open seas without a good navigation system will surely get lost.’
    • ‘It was hoped that a high tide might help the captain refloat the vessel.’
    commander, master, skipper
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    1. 1.1 The pilot in command of a civil aircraft.
      ‘aircraft captains are entitled to deny boarding to passengers under the influence of drugs’
      • ‘Lightplane pilots are faced with virtually the same decision-making tasks as are captains of jumbo jets.’
      • ‘The aircraft's captain said that two aircraft had just flown into the World Trade Center.’
      • ‘I can tell members that there were moments when the captain of one particular aircraft got rather agitated by what was going on in the cabin, and it was pretty darn scary.’
      • ‘He also mentioned that the captain of that aircraft has been flying for more than 10 years, but 10 years with Southwest.’
      • ‘At the same time, a Beech King Air, piloted by a retired airline captain, began its takeoff roll on runway 4.’
      • ‘And, just as the way someone drives a car affects gas consumption, the way a captain pilots a jet can waste fuel.’
      • ‘It's the sort of aircraft where the captain's pre-flight safety briefing includes a warning not to touch the controls!’
      • ‘When, many hours later, the plane was still a few miles away from Heathrow, the captain would have lowered the wheels of the aircraft.’
      • ‘However: if we are to expect airplane captains and flight attendants to make important security decisions, they need to be properly trained.’
      • ‘The captain put on an oxygen mask and slowed the aircraft down.’
      • ‘An aircraft captain has been criticised after failing to properly report an incident which affected a Stansted-bound flight last year.’
      • ‘So, he quickly wrote a note and passed his concern to the aircraft captain via one of the backseat crewmembers.’
      • ‘The captain and one co-pilot will be in the pilots' seats for both takeoff and landing, but during the flight all crewmembers take turns at the controls.’
      • ‘Once the aircraft was on auto pilot, the captain, who had greeted me with a huge smile on the tarmac, came out of his cabin and chatted with the passengers.’
      • ‘Balpa said that under the agreement an aircraft captain will be told when sky marshals are to be on board a flight, who they are and where they will be sitting.’
      • ‘Airline management has been intimidating pilots by permanently demoting captains following accidents or flight mishaps.’
      • ‘During the emergency descent the captain, flight engineer, and the attendant regained consciousness and an emergency landing was made.’
      • ‘When we arrived at the flight line, the plane captain for my aircraft told us he was concerned with maintenance discrepancies found during his TA.’
      • ‘Now I've got 9,000 hours total time, I'm an instrument-rated pilot, and a captain on a Lear Jet.’
      • ‘The prosecutor said a police officer boarded the aircraft while the captain was preparing for the flight to Dalaman in Turkey.’
      airman, airwoman, flyer, aeronaut
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    2. 1.2 A rank of naval officer above commander and below commodore.
      • ‘Among those attending were First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Alan West, retired First Sea Lord Admiral Jock Slater and several former commodores and captains of Dryad.’
      • ‘He was encouraged to support the Royal National Lifeboat Institution by two of his neighbours, who are retired naval captains and has already raised about £800.’
      • ‘Among the burglar's loot were Nelson's three precious Naval Gold Medals, a mark of honour awarded to admirals and captains present at certain Naval engagements in the Napoleonic Wars.’
      • ‘Initially the Navy had only two ranks, lieutenant and captain; flag ranks were not established until the Civil War.’
      • ‘She wore the grey tunic of a naval captain, the rank badges so green with seaspray they were unreadable.’
      • ‘I hope some day that I will be able to visit, but certainly not in the capacity as a captain or a naval officer.’
      • ‘Gold lace became confined to flag officers in both dress and undress uniforms; captains wore it only in full dress.’
      • ‘The state of the care at Haslar attracted the attention of the top brass, who in 1795 decided that executive command of the establishment would be better in the hands of Naval captains.’
      • ‘It turned out that Matt's Dad was a naval captain and his mother worked in Hong Kong, so he had to live with his Aunt.’
      • ‘Admiral West joined the RN in 1965 and he was the captain of HMS Ardent during the Falklands War.’
      • ‘Even Jane Austen contributed to militarization by glorifying being a naval captain's wife in Persuasion.’
      • ‘Their children included three priests, two nuns and a naval captain.’
      • ‘But the captain had summoned more naval men and now there was a small regiment chasing after them.’
      • ‘The captains expect their non-signal commanders to have a high level of automation knowledge.’
      • ‘Incidentally, this pattern was that worn by captains and commanders from 1832-1939.’
      • ‘Drawn into the murky world of naval intelligence, the captain and his multinational crew are on a mysterious mission that even DeHaan doesn't understand.’
      • ‘He is a captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve and a P3C Orion pilot.’
      • ‘Cumberland later went back to sea with one captain and five commanders on board - the six are shortly to assume command of their own frigates and destroyers.’
      • ‘I happen to be reading the diary of Betsy Freemantle, the wife of a naval captain during the Napoleonic Wars.’
      • ‘In ‘Billy Budd’ the innocent boy is hanged by his reluctant captain in accordance with naval law.’
    3. 1.3 A rank of officer in the army and in the US and Canadian air forces, above lieutenant and below major.
      • ‘To help alleviate a shortfall of 1,900 captains, the U.S. Army will promote officers earlier to the rank of captain beginning in October.’
      • ‘‘With the Army at war, captains need to get back to their units,’ Thompson said.’
      • ‘Historically, 95 percent of lieutenants become captains.’
      • ‘The heart of any Army is not its generals, but its young sergeants, captains and colonels.’
      • ‘Because captain retention is so poor, Department of the Army has chosen to make captains from lieutenants at three years of service.’
      • ‘Through repeated rehearsals, a captain can adjust his defensive strategy and intercept virtual attackers before they reach their targets.’
      • ‘These captains and lieutenants have formed a bond and mutual respect with their men and it is these faces that leaders remember for the rest of their lives.’
      • ‘In addition, like shining stars, there were admirals, army colonels and captains everywhere.’
      • ‘Also present was Sir Richard Kingsland, 92, a distinguished RAAF pilot who was one of the original aircraft captains of the squadron.’
      • ‘No doubt the two lieutenants, one captain, and the major looking over its sergeant's shoulder had something to do with that.’
      • ‘What advice would you offer to U.S. Army infantry captains considering applying for an assignment in SOUTHCOM?’
      • ‘You would be hard pressed to find a young captain or major who hadn't flown combat sorties in the area of operations.’
      • ‘The failure of baby boomers to effectively communicate with younger generations of soldiers is driving many captains out of the Army.’
      • ‘On Thursday, the senator agreed to lift his hold on promotions of 127 Air Force captains and majors.’
      • ‘Minister for Defence Robert Hill talks with an Australian Army captain and warrant officer at a Middle East base.’
      • ‘The plane captains, taking great pride in the condition of their jets, scrambled to their Hornets to close the canopies.’
      • ‘A total of 8.7 percent of Army lieutenants and captains left in 2004 for example - the highest rate since 2001.’
      • ‘Three to five platoons form a company, which is commanded by a captain with a first sergeant as the commander's principal NCO assistant.’
      • ‘One is an Army captain with a master's degree in archaeology.’
      • ‘He and his wife, an active duty Army captain, have been stationed at Camp Zama for two years.’
  • 2The leader of a team, especially in sports.

    ‘the cup was presented to the winning team's captain’
    • ‘They are team captains and senior leaders in the 2002 season.’
    • ‘And this season Smith, voted a team captain, has become a leader.’
    • ‘Several days later, the administration met with the team captains and student leaders.’
    • ‘But now, captains can bolster their teams with either a batsman or an extra bowler depending on the situation.’
    • ‘In high school, he was an excellent student and athlete, named as captain of the football team as well as editor of the school's newspaper.’
    • ‘Should the game run its full course, the trophy will be handed to the captain of the winning team late on Sunday.’
    • ‘It was understood from the time he got to St. Louis that he was a leader, and the players elected him one of the team captains.’
    • ‘That year she wore the class ring of the student council president, who was also the captain of the football team.’
    • ‘Imagine you are the captain of a sports team facing an important match and you want to speak to everyone to persuade them to do their best.’
    • ‘My ex was dumped by the cheerleader, for the captain of the lacrosse team.’
    • ‘During my senior year of high school, I was the captain of my basketball team and the king of superstitions.’
    • ‘He had been captain of the football team, captain of the basketball team, MVP of all the sports he played.’
    • ‘As a team captain at the University of Tennessee, Wilson gained a reputation as the kind of player who inspired his teammates.’
    • ‘There will also be plenty of other side-shows on view, with both teams' captains playing their last professional rugby matches.’
    • ‘It would be nearly impossible for the Browns to complete an entire season without the team's captains or a group of players emerging as the ones to follow.’
    • ‘He succeeded grandly, too, becoming an All-American center and a team captain.’
    • ‘You join a top of the table Sunday league team but the captain only happens to be the ex of your girlfriend.’
    • ‘The team captain leveled a thinly veiled criticism at the club president just last week.’
    • ‘The rugby chairman and team captains receive and make more phone calls to players to fill teams.’
    • ‘It was in his nature to fight with captains, umpires, team mates, managers, mentors, pupils.’
    leader, head, skipper
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    1. 2.1 A powerful or influential person in a particular field.
      ‘a captain of industry’
      • ‘Like him or loathe him, no-one could ignore Sir John, who mixed with prime ministers, princes, captains of industry and film stars.’
      • ‘Manor Kingdom's client profile includes captains of industry, entrepreneurs, sportspeople and an increasing number of overseas buyers.’
      • ‘Influential captains of industry have complained that Kerry is one of the most expensive counties in Ireland in terms of rates charged to businesses.’
      • ‘As you know, I'm in business and I mix with some of the captains of industry.’
      • ‘Joe is a powerful leader, a straight talker and a seasoned captain of industry.’
      • ‘The India High Commission recently hosted an interactive luncheon for the captains of business and industry.’
      • ‘He dealt with captains of industry, ministers of the Crown, peers of the realm and princes of the blood - I was on the fringes of this highly powered world.’
      • ‘But the battle lines are not what you'd expect: local versus multinational, simple peasant versus powerful captains of industry.’
      • ‘This isn't business culture as such; advertising people aren't the captains of industry.’
      • ‘With considerable fanfare, but without any captains of industry, the president enacted a crackdown intended to take some of the tarnish off the blue chips.’
      • ‘Gathered together were kings and prime ministers and presidents and captains of industry and the leaders of the world's great churches and other institutions.’
      • ‘I personally know of Government Ministers and many captains of industry here in Ireland who avail of their services on a regular basis.’
      • ‘There was this sense that the captains of industry were the proper people to steward us into this golden post-atomic age.’
      • ‘This meeting was held as a precursor to the meeting scheduled between Chief Minister Dharam Singh and the captains of the IT industry after September 20.’
      • ‘It could be said that they would be captains of industry if they had directed their efforts towards honest pursuits.’
      • ‘Have captains of industry teaching them business skills?’
      • ‘After the Government was recently accused of being unresponsive, the chief minister called a meeting of industry captains and promised to address all issues on a war footing.’
      • ‘The Sunday Herald remains committed to encouraging our female captains of industry and entrepreneurs to speak with a louder voice in the future.’
      • ‘It may be, and maybe this is the point of the bill, that members think that such people - captains of industry - should not be members of Parliament.’
      • ‘Armed with information gathered from personal station visits, Mariswamy wrote to Bangalore's industry captains.’
      magnate, tycoon, mogul, grandee, baron, nabob, mandarin, industrialist
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    2. 2.2British A head boy or girl in a school.
      ‘he did very well academically, becoming school captain’
      • ‘The office of school captain was introduced in 1916 and was originally held by boys only. The school captains of 1915 were honorary.’
      • ‘Being a school captain is about more than just wearing a fancy badge.’
      • ‘As my time as School Captain draws to a close, I have been reflecting on my six years as a student at Box Hill High School.’
      • ‘Fellow year twelve student and school captain Vanessa Sheppard said the students were deeply affected by war.’
      • ‘Jessye Harris and James Gould will lead the students at Geraldton Grammar School this year as school captains.’
    3. 2.3North American A supervisor of waiters or bellboys.
      • ‘The service team - a captain, waiter, back waiter, and maitre d' dressed in tuxedos - are instructed to do whatever is necessary to make the guests happy.’
      • ‘This training manual covers every aspect of restaurant customer service for the positions of captain, waiter or waitress, and busser.’
      • ‘Want to know what's proper to tip the captain, waiter, or sommelier when dining out?’
      • ‘Vance was a busboy, waiter, captain, valet, and a limo driver before joining middle management in the '70s.’
  • 3(in the US) a police officer in charge of a precinct, ranking below a chief.

    • ‘At the request of the police HQI, the captain called on the crowd to disperse, which it did.’
    • ‘Police captains Jin and Leo are given 10 days to capture the new leader of the Daggers.’
    • ‘There was a retailer in Jacksonville a few years back, who got a visit from a police captain who told him that unless he removed several books from his shelves she would close him down.’
    • ‘We have established a relationship with the captain of the local police station.’
    • ‘The police precinct captains could then dispatch patrols, communicate between stations, and control vehicles.’
    • ‘As Dawn thought about the unofficial captain of the police, she felt herself calm.’
    • ‘Welles is Hank Quindlen, police captain in the filthy town on the north side of the Mexican border.’
    • ‘In a lawsuit filed in the late 1990s, Moose was accused of discriminating against a gay police captain.’
    • ‘Shortly after that my father received a phone call from Ken Lynch, a captain at the local police department.’
    • ‘The car was quickly surrounded by police and the captain approached the driver to handle the tense situation.’
    • ‘Not to demean police captains, but guys then were sort of managing the guards.’
    • ‘Even while playing games with his friends, he always took on the roles of a captain or police sergeant and made his pals become thieves and prisoners.’
    • ‘Determined to protect their masters, however, two local police captains hatch a plan to flush out and kill the new leader of the group and begin by tracking her down to a house of pleasure named the Peony Pavilion.’
    • ‘In 1854, after nearly three years as police captain, Brennan made his first run for elective office, seeking the influential post of police justice.’
    • ‘The captain requested that police meet the flight on its arrival at Manchester.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, an anonymous scooper told that the blonde daughter of a certain police captain will be making an appearance in the new Spider-film.’
    • ‘Their 65-year-old mother, Hadima, was killed in the bombing, as was their brother Khalid, who was an Iraqi police captain.’
    • ‘Jessica was beginning to doubt if she had the right warehouse when she overheard a policeman talking with the captain.’
    • ‘Carly's eye went to the man, who wore the uniform of an Oneonta Police captain.’
    • ‘So he'd probably told one of the captains to order the police force to work with me without explaining why.’


  • Be the captain of (a ship, aircraft, or sports team)

    ‘all the boats are captained by professional sailors’
    • ‘The popular Scot has the honour and responsibility of captaining the European team.’
    • ‘Prince Gualtero has captained his own ship and Sullivan Trooper has been his right hand in both battles and enterprise.’
    • ‘A six-team soccer match will see leading actors captaining the teams.’
    • ‘They inadvertently stow away on a ship captained by the explorer Cortes, managing to escape with the assistance of a horse.’
    • ‘He captained the team to win the National League in 1970 and went on to win All Star honours.’
    • ‘If Harrington spends three years captaining the scout team, he will remain an unknown commodity.’
    • ‘Back in Dublin he rowed for the university and captained the golf team.’
    • ‘I've been here since I was 14 and captaining the team just fills me with pride.’
    • ‘I've never captained a team like this before and I wondered if there were any secrets.’
    • ‘When he found the time, he also explored the African jungle in Gabon and captained a super yacht around the Mediterranean.’
    • ‘It is Eleanor's first time captaining a ship, and it is actually going very well, and she is filled with a kind of idealistic pride.’
    • ‘Worse still, he is accused of trading on his global brand name, of captaining a team he doesn't even deserve to play in.’
    • ‘It is at times the rudder that steadies and guides the ship of state captained by the Government.’
    • ‘Despite the outcome, captaining this team was the greatest privilege ever for me.’
    • ‘It was there he honed his football skills and captained the junior team to a South Leinster title.’
    • ‘All the boats are captained by professional sailors but the rest of the crew are amateurs.’
    • ‘Two years prior to captaining the college team, Pemlal then only 16 years, was included into the national pool in preparation for the Indian tour.’
    • ‘He captained the senior team in the year 1994 and in between those years he turned up to be a fine batsman.’
    • ‘Twelve years later he captained the British team when the Olympic Games were held in London.’
    • ‘He has also represented the London ABA, captaining the team against Ireland, and has just returned from Spain where he won his bout.’
    command, skipper, run, be in charge of, have charge of, control, have control of, govern, preside over, direct, rule, manage, supervise, superintend
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Late Middle English (in the general sense ‘chief or leader’): from Old French capitain (superseding earlier chevetaigne ‘chieftain’), from late Latin capitaneus ‘chief’, from Latin caput, capit- ‘head’.